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Coursera To Offer K-12 Teacher Development Courses 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the working-its-way-into-schools dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Coursera on Wednesday announced it has partnered with 12 top professional development programs and schools of education to open up training and development courses to teachers worldwide. The massive open online course (MOOC) provider is expanding beyond university courses by offering 28 teaching courses for free, with more to come. It’s worth noting that this is the first time Coursera is partnering with non-degree-bearing institutions. It’s also Coursera’s first foray into early childhood and K-12-level education. The company clearly sees this as a necessary step if it wants to go beyond just students and address the other side of the expensive education equation."
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Coursera To Offer K-12 Teacher Development Courses

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  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:08PM (#43603145)
    The problem with modern education is its not about knowledge, the answer to virtually any question is simply a Google away, instead its about qualification. Part of qualification is this idea that is still stuck in most of the older generation's mind that you "get what you pay for" and so even though something free might be really good, they believe that it is, by definition, inferior to a paid product. You see this all the time with antivirus software, someone buying a $20 product that is inferior to free stuff like AVG but insisting that their computer is better protected just because they "paid for it".

    While its always nice to see information becoming more free, I doubt that it will really revolutionize anything until we have a shift in perspective and those in charge realize that free can often be better than paid.
    • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:50PM (#43603501)

      What you're paying for when you take a paid course is individual attention and verification that you passed the exams that the instructor gave you. Coursera is great if you're personally motivated to learn the material, but it's shit if you want any guarantee that the person did the work themselves or took the tests. Yes, it's possible to cheat in regular classes, but it's harder to do so when there's at most a few hundred people in the class rather than the tens of thousands in a free course.

      In this case, the correct answer is for the school to just pay the fees associated with teacher training. And leave free alternatives like this to the 2nd and 3rd world where they might not have funding to provide it at all.

      • What you're paying for when you take a paid course is individual attention and verification that you passed the exams that the instructor gave you. Coursera is great if you're personally motivated to learn the material, but it's shit if you want any guarantee that the person did the work themselves or took the tests. Yes, it's possible to cheat in regular classes, but it's harder to do so when there's at most a few hundred people in the class rather than the tens of thousands in a free course.

        In this case, the correct answer is for the school to just pay the fees associated with teacher training. And leave free alternatives like this to the 2nd and 3rd world where they might not have funding to provide it at all.

        Actually, the correct answer is to use courseware like this as the core *teaching* component, freeing up resources to manage testing and application training.

        Teaching materials should be as low-cost as they can be; it's the training and testing of learned skills that needs some sort of paid adjudicator.

        This is something I never understood; when I was in school, there were some teachers who felt like it was their duty to shove the training material down students' throats, and then they turned around and tested the training material instead of the students. Other teachers provided the material, taught the students how to learn from it, and then administered tests that measured the students' ability to handle the knowledge they were supposed to have learned from the teaching material.

        In my opinion, the first group wasn't really teaching anything in the first place, and passing tests was as easy (or difficult) as memorizing (not learning) the source material. Cheating in these "courses" was rampant. The paywall did nothing to stop it.

        The second group could just as easily have used coursera for the teaching, freeing the teacher up to *teach* students the bits that they were having difficulty grasping. Then, come testing time, the teacher has time to create and administer a test focused on what they expected the students to know -- the coursera tests being a method for the *students* to gauge how likely they were to pass the graded test and figure out where to get help from the teacher, nothing more.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          That might be your opinion, but a significant portion of the student body won't learn anything if the teacher doesn't make them learn it. What's more, the teacher can lose his or her job if they don't do sufficiently well on the state tests.

          The latter teachers are taking a rather substantial risk which may or may not pay off. And certainly will not pay off if they have classes of more than 30 students and more than 5 classes at any given time.

          It's nice to be idealistic sometimes, but we shouldn't kid oursel

          • Definitely my opinion, and I know there are many ways of learning... but in all my years dealing with education, I've never seen a teacher who was able to make students learn... different students just need different ways to be engaged, if they're going to be engaged by the topic at all.

            And remember: we're talking higher education here. In fact, we're talking post-degree education in most cases. If the teachers in your schools won't learn anything unless an instructor makes them learn it, you've got bigge

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You do get what you pay for, even if it is simply not having to look harder for the cheaper alternative. Money provides incentive. Someone given little or no incentive will expend little or no effort. Cheaper inputs usually result in an inferior output, otherwise people would quickly stop doing it the inefficient way. Not having perfect information, price is often the best way to evaluate value.

      You are also wrong about the answer being a Google away. Without contextual knowledge the person doesn't even

      • by Anonymous Coward

        When you're thinking "Someone given little or no incentive will expend little or no effort" you're missing out a lot on self-motivation and human ability to struggle and over-acheive and reinvent oneself, outside of all today's world twisted (mostyle money/power related) motivations

    • by vandamme (1893204)

      I'm trying to convince my grandkids' school that they should look into Linux instead of replacing all their XP computers with "modern" machines (with W8 of course).
      Main argument against it: "You get what you pay for".

      On the list of "scams against the taxpayer", education is right up there with the DoD.

  • Amazing times (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:18PM (#43603247) Homepage Journal

    We're really living in amazing times.

    Most online courses to date have been lacking in one aspect or another, most notably student interest - drop rates of over 95% are common. Teething pains probably, as teachers begin to recognize that a) courses online must be presented in a different way, and b) teaching techniques must be effective (in terms of keeping student interest) when the audience is not captive.

    Recently I saw this gem [edx.org], which is extremely good. Good presentation, good technical quality (web form scoring &c), good content, and some experimental techniques in keeping student interest.

    While I don't like the techniques used for keeping student interest in this course, they are at least experimenting with new techniques and learning from past mistakes. The quality keeps getting better.

    Their business model varies, but one site hopes to provide an MBA ensemble for $50 (Udacity [udacity.com]) and another gets finders fees from companies that hire the top scorers (edX [edx.org]). And of course there's Kahn academy [khanacademy.org], which is turning high-school education upside down.

    In a couple of years, you will probably be able to get a complete high-quality education by self-study over the internet for thin money. You'll be able to study as much as you want for whatever topic you want and for as long as you want.

    No more massive student loans [google.com] just to get a decent education.

    Another example of a moribund business model being overtaken by new technology.

    Amazing times indeed.

    • Re:Amazing times (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Russ1642 (1087959) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:32PM (#43603351)
      Could do that years ago. There's a whole scene in Good Will Hunting about how he got his advanced education for 45 cents in late charges at the library.
      • Well you usually can find the information to learn if you know where to look, for free... but the real challenge for competing with brick/mortar educational institutions are the Acceptance of Accreditation and (if you are just teaching yourself at the library like Good Will Hunting) then the coherence of the subject matter or trail from one book to the next that leads to a worthwhile education in a relevant field. There has to be someone to lead the learner to the right materials to study in the right or
        • Re: Free Education (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Russ1642 (1087959) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @04:44PM (#43603939)
          I think the key to getting accreditation for education is the separation of teaching from testing. They should be completely independent. Many higher level programs operate this way. You can learn in any way you want from private tutors to full university classes, but everyone takes the same tests and is held to the same high standard. I could go on and on about this but I'm sure many out there who have learned under this kind of system will agree that it's superior to the high school/university style of teaching, where teacher's are far more interested in testing students than actually teaching them anything.
      • Could do that years ago. There's a whole scene in Good Will Hunting about how he got his advanced education for 45 cents in late charges at the library.

        The key is not just learning, but figuring out what to learn. Looking back at my education from decades hence, many of the most important things I learned were in mandatory "core" classes, that I only took because they were required.

    • You'll be able to study as much as you want for whatever topic you want and for as long as you want.

      It's called a library dude. Freely available knowledge and information hasn't been the issue for a LONG time. Ease of access was pretty much solved by the Internet. Everyone could see that coming back in the 90's.

      Now we've got all of humanities knowledge at the fingertips of children and they can summon information, tutorials, how-to's, explanations, technical papers, research papers, the dummies guide to the research papers, and everything they need to learn EVERYTHING they would have been taught in K-12,

    • The MIT circuit design course was like drinking from a firehose, i.e. MIT-pace. You have to be motivated to keep up and spend lots of time on it. I took it as a MIT student and the surrounding college environment helped a lot with self-discipline. Most of Cousera's courses will not be as intense as this, but they are still college-level courses.
  • Education has come a long way from the traditional class room experience.
    The thing about classroom experience is that the teacher has the hard job of not only having to present material, but keep the students engaged with it.
    Want to be an astronaut? well, you need your ABCs, 1,2,3s.. and so on and so forth.
    All this new online stuff is great!
    But without motivation, very few people on this planet, just learn for the sake of learning..
    And I think that it really boils down to this.
    Motivation.
    How do you i
    • Motivation.
      How do you instill motivation in kids

      You make them take a test on the subject right after the video/coursework/online shenanigans. You have a broader test at the end of the week. You have an even broader test at the end of the year. And you have a really important test over general knowledge at the end of their school years. Like an ACT or SAT.

      If they don't pass a daily test, they get homework.
      If they don't pass a weekly test, they get told they're stupid and if they don't get their grades up they're going to be losers.
      If they don't pass a yea

      • You make them take a test on the subject right after the video/coursework/online shenanigans.

        We can do better. Good online instruction integrates the evaluation directly into the learning process. So they read a paragraph, then answer a few questions to see if they "got it". Then they read the next paragraph, and answer a few more questions. Their progress is reported on a dashboard that the teacher and/or parent can monitor in a browser. If a student is answering questions incorrectly, or not progressing through the material, they are flagged on the dashboard, and the teacher can walk over an

  • List of Courses (Score:3, Informative)

    by gregulator (756993) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:35PM (#43603377)

    Here is their company blog post with a partial list of courses.

    http://blog.coursera.org/post/49331574337/coursera-announces-professional-development-courses-to [coursera.org]

  • by xeno (2667) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:54PM (#43603539)

    Open online courses in educational methods are a great step in the right direction. My big concern is math education in the US: I have 2 kids in middle & high school, and one of the huge peeves has been that many parents have been driven to home education for basic math thru algebra, out of frustration with poor performance of "Discovery" and "Connected" math programs (aka Chicago Univ methods). I'm not a hater of the programs per se, just the results. Apparently these programs are pretty good at keeping low-performing and low-aptitude students involved and learning, and are quite popular with school systems facing NCLB cut-offs. But for kids with a high aptitude and good applied sense of math? The results are terrible: Kids consistently describe the program content as repetitive and boring (because moving ahead out-of-pace creates great difficulty for the teacher) while the structure is confusing (kids who are adept at the math still find the topic progression confusing). It's as if they decided to teach math topics like a 'round' in music class, and anyone out of phase gets squashed. As a result math teachers routinely use high-performers to tutor others or send them off to do unrelated schoolwork rather than skip ahead. This yet-another-new-math is a hot mess, but it's financially attractive for struggling districts.

    What to do? Personally we've been collaborating locally with other parents to supplement the math course with better materials and homegrown syllabi with a more linear progression through math and algebra topics. We've also leaned heavily on crowdsourced materials, Khan Academy being the largest. Not only does this make it easier for kids to progress logically and smoothly through the material, but also gives kids a sense of control/ownership and interest in the material. (Nothing so pissed me off as how much the Chicago program kills enthusiasm for learning: "I'm good at this, but screw this homework - it's the third time we've done this topic.") But tutoring and homegrown programs are a *lot* of work, and inevitably fall down in some areas. I wish the public educational system could improve to handle it, but most teachers don't have good methods or support to improve from within.

    Open coursework for educators can help in two ways:
    1. Teach the teachers better. If US schools are going to continue to adopt a mediocre math program, at least the teachers should teach it right. Causes of the woes above, after the lousy program itself, include poor education of teachers on how to deliver the program. Without firm understanding, even good teachers can't deliver the material well, and excellent teachers are not prepared to bend and adapt the material to fit their students. To wit: If an apprentice needs a 28oz framing hammer and you give him a Fubar(tm), he'll probably keep bashing nails in but you've got so show him which part was intended as a hammer. If you tell the journeyman that part of the tool was hardened for use as a hammer, he'll probably use it correctly and might even reach good performance (even if making a 48oz do-10-jobs-but-none-of-them-well tool made additional work for him)
    2. Give teachers more tools to contribute to open courseware content. This is a good step in the direction to support open course content, and an environment where curriculum can live and die by its performance -- not by the quixotic whims of the biggest textbook buyer. This has far wider reach than just my personal math concerns. The potential is really great.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not sure if it is the right tool for your kids, but take a look at artofproblemsolving.com - I was lucky enough to benefit from some amazing teachers early on and throughout school, but when I came across them while running a math contest, I came to the conclusion that I really wish they had existed when I was younger. Khan is great for remediation, but AoPS is designed to push the advanced kids to strengthen their foundations and explore all the things left out of the normal K-12 curriculum.

  • I think all teachers should take courses. If it were up to me every two years a grade school teacher would have to take tests which incompass's everything from K to 12 and if they get less then 90% they are fired instantly, with a chance for a redo only after 6 month.
  • MOOC is great, don't get me wrong. But the problem with it, as I see it, is if everybody learns the material in the exact same way, it limits a societies problem solving abilities because everyone then uses identical problem solving approaches. Richard Feynman found that he had an advantage over his colleagues in some instances by having knowledge of a different set of tools. So as long as MOOC doesn't wind up becoming "Everything 101" but rather becomes a diverse set of courses allowing many choices by
  • One of the requirements of teaching classes in accredited education programs is that there's almost an apprenticeship aspect to it. Starting in sophomore level classes, prospective education majors are sent into the field for observations. This is followed up by mentoring and assisting a teacher directly, and then finally by a full semester of student teaching as a partner to the teacher in their senior year.

    I just don't see how Coursera can replace that experience, which is what actually makes or brea
  • According to Twain: THose who can do, those who can't teach.

    But what about those who teach the teachers?

  • A bit OT, but how are you supposed to pronounce Coursera? Course Ra or Cours Era?

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